Beyond the beach chairs and margaritas, Mexico offers up a plethora of activities for the adventurous and not so adventurous traveler. About 1/5 the size of the United States, Mexico is home to diverse mountain regions, vast coastlines, lakes and rivers. It’s a great place to explore and touch base with nature.
Snorkeling the Cenotes in the Mayan Riviera
In Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the stretch of road between Cancun and Tulum is identified as the Mayan Riviera. Known mostly for its large all-inclusive resorts and white sandy beaches, this area is also a popular eco adventure destination, mostly because beneath the parched desert landscape lie thousands of miles of underground waterways. These waterways join together in large, underground fresh-water caves, called cenotes.
With over 2000 cenotes in this area alone, there are many to choose from. Some just offer snorkeling while others include zip-lining, rappelling, kayaking and diving. Some cenotes are within the confines of resorts and large eco parks such as Xel-Ha, while others are marked only by a cardboard sign along the highway.
My favorite spot is Hidden Worlds. This eco park is located just north of Tulum and offers two large caverns to snorkel in, The Church and Tak Be Hal. At the Tak Be Hal Cavern you can zip-line directly into the cave. Be sure to take mosquito repellant as you’ll be traipsing through the jungle to get to the cenotes. If you don’t like cold water (the water temperature is a chilly 72 degrees year round) wet suits are available for rent. Then don a snorkel, mask and fins and have fun navigating over, under and around stalactites and stalagmites.
Four Wheeling in Cozumel
Join an Eco Jeep tour, pick up a jeep in the town of San Miguel on Cozumel and you are promised a “Mexican Massage”!
Adventure seekers are given the keys their own jeep after signing an insurance waiver and are instructed to listen to the Guide Leader over the loudspeaker for instructions and alerts for the road ahead. The journey starts as a convoy of jeeps racing down the Mexican highway towards the coast. The tour leads the jeeps through mostly dry creek beds, across small boulders and rough terrain but that’s all part of the four wheeling fun. The jostling you receive is the promised “Mexican Massage”.
The tour includes a stop at the Punta Sur Ecological Park where participants can view old Mayan ruins and salt water crocodiles that are indigenous to the area. You will then be able to lounge on the beach or snorkel the second longest reef in the world, the Palancar Reef.
Diving and Snuba in Acapulco
Certified divers as well as first timers can experience the world beneath the waves at La Roqueta Island. There are several dive operators in Acapulco and all offer trips to this small island in Acapulco Bay. It’s only accessible by boat and is just a 30 minute ride from shore. If you own your own equipment and are comfortable diving on your own, ferry boats depart from Playa Caleta about every 20 minutes or so.
For experienced divers using a dive operator, they offer one and two tank diving as well as nighttime diving excursions.
For less experienced folks or if you just want a change a pace, try Snuba. On a Snuba dive you are connected to an air hose from the boat and can descend up to 23 ft. There are no heavy tanks to carry around and no gauges to try to make sense of. This is a great way to get acquainted with diving.
La Roqueta Island has a rich, underwater ecosystem of coral and abundant sea life. There are sunken ships, walls, and pass through rock formations. With more than 20 different dive sites to choose from; it’s some of the best diving in Acapulco.
Surfing in Puerto Escondido
Known as the Mexican Pipeline, Puerto Escondido is one of the top surfing spots in the world. It hosts international competitions and draws top surfers from around the globe.
Zicatela Beach is the most popular surf spot. The surfing gets better (and more treacherous) right after the rainy season which begins in early May and ends in October. Die hard surfers know to bring several boards with them as the water breaks so hard that they can damage several boards in one day.
The Point is a little tamer and is better suited for less experienced surfers. There are still rip currents possible so make sure to check the conditions before you head out.
If you’ve never surfed before or even if you have a little bit of experience it’s advised to take a surf lesson. You’ll learn not only the surfing basics but you will also get some in depth knowledge about surfing in this particular area.
Both Central Surf Shop and Oasis Surf Factory offer lessons for all ages and experience levels.
Kayaking in Baja
Each year, from January to March, thousands of gray whales take refuge in Western Baja’s protected lagoons for winter breeding, making this the top spot in the world for whale watching.
On the Eastern shore of the Baja Peninsula, the Sea of Cortez (also known as the
Gulf of California) attracts a greater variety of whales and other marine mammals. This is more than any other sea on the planet.
Kayaking gives you a glimpse up close at these magnificent mammals that cannot be experienced from shore or even by boat. Kayak tours are offered on both shores and can ranges from a couple of hours to several days.
River Rafting Near Mexico City
About two hours South of Mexico City is the Usumacinta River. This river is about 600 miles long and defines the border between Mexico and Guatemala. It begins in the Sierra de Santa Cruz (in Guatemala) and ends up emptying into Campeche Bay.
Along its beaches lie ancient cities, hidden Mayan temples and forgotten tombs. The river winds through tropical forests with howler monkeys, iguanas and toucans. There are waterfalls near El Encanto, rapids along the way and spectacular canyons.
Due to Mexican Government regulations, it’s best to take an organized expedition. These expeditions usually run seven to ten days and offer all meals, camping and supplies needed for the journey.Sierra Madre is a mountain range which runs northwest-southeast from the state of Chiapas in Mexico across Guatemala and into El Salvador and Honduras. Most of the volcanoes of Guatemala are a part of this range.A narrow coastal plain lies south the range, between the Sierra Madre and the Pacific.
Mountain Climbing in Central Mexico
Expert climbers head to Mexico for high altitude training and you can too! Both Iztaccihuatl (17,343 feet) and Orizaba (18,850 feet) provide not only the perfect training for the experts but novices can do these climbs as well with an experienced guide. Orizaba is the third highest mountain and the highest volcanic summit in North America. Total Climbing, A Colorado based firm, provide an itinerary with enough time to get acclimated to the altitude changes as well as experiencing some of the local culture.
If Orizaba seems a little daunting and you’d like a little less altitude then International Alpine Guides lead treks to La Malinche where the summit is 14,600 feet. They also combine this climb with a visit to the pyramids of Teotihuacan before heading to Iztaccihuatl.
Both climbs offer spectacular views and glimpses in Mexico’s culture that you can’t get anywhere else.
Sport Fishing in Zihuatanejo
A Fisherman’s paradise, Zihuatanejo offers some of the calmest waters and steadiest water temperatures (between 75 and 86 degrees year-round) in the Pacific. That’s just one of the reasons why it was named as the second most popular fishing destination by ‘Saltwater Sportsman Magazine’. Anglers are almost sure to bring in a catch as sailfish are abundant year round and depending on the time of year, so are yellow-fin tuna, striped marlin, blue marlins and Dorado’s.
For the best experience, hire a guided charter boat. While this isn’t a requirement, the captains of these vessels frequent the best spots and know where the fish are biting.